The High Court on Wednesday questioned the purpose of buying hundreds of bighas of land in different places by the members of Board of Trustees of North South University (NSU).
A division bench of Justice Md Nazrul Islam Talukder and Justice Kazi Md Ejarul Haque Akondo came up with the observation while hearing petitions filed by the NSU trustees seeking anticipatory bail in a graft case.
On May 5, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) sued NSU trustee board Chairman Azim Uddin Ahmed, members Benajir Ahmed, MA Kashem, Rehana Rahman and Mohammed Shajahan, and Ashaloy Housing and Developers Ltd Managing Director Amin Md Hilaly for embezzling Tk 303.82 crore of the university.
The HC partially heard the bail arguments from all sides and adjourned the hearing until on Thursday..
The accused misappropriated the money in the name of purchasing 9,096.88 decimals of land in Rupganj of Narayanganj in connivance with one another.
They made the transactions for the land from 2014 to 2016. The trustees spent Tk 500 crore of the university through overvaluation. They paid Tk 300 cr more than the actual price of the land.
Later, land owner Amin Md Hilaly paid back the money to the trustee members personally as bribe.
Of the accused, Kashem, Benajir, Rehana and Shajahan filed bail petitions.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Barrister Ajmalul Hossain QC, Barrister Fida M Kamal and Advocate AF Hassan Ariff, who stood for the accused, claimed that their clients belong to high class of the society and they need bail to avoid police harassment in the ‘motivated’ case.
They also said the case was filed based on the presumption of embezzlement of money but not concrete evidence.
The counsels referred to a previous writ petition which was disposed of by the HC on the same issue of the private university.
However, ACC counsel Khurshid Alam Khan said the university trustees committed organised crimes and they do not deserve anticipatory bail. “The accused persons have not only embezzled money but also laundered it,” he said.
“The social status of the NSU trustee members is not the mitigating factor. The prime minister, ministers, lawmakers and other people with high position of any country face case. So, nobody is above the law. The NSU trustee members have committed organised crimes and laundered money. The accused don’t deserve bail,” the ACC lawyer said.
About previous petition, he said the HC then observed that NSU is a non-profit educational institution and its trustees should not spend money for unnecessary purposes.
Khurshid also read out a report of the Daily Ittefaq on corruption committed by the members of the NSU Board of Trustees.
The ACC filed the case and police have nothing to do with it, he said, adding that the accused persons’ claim about police harassment is baseless.
Citing some guidelines of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court for anticipatory bail, the lawyer said anticipatory bail should be granted to a person apprehensive of any unauthorised harassment.
“The guidelines of the Supreme Court are not applicable for the NSU trustee members. They’ll go to the trial court. Yesterday (Tuesday), the trial court sent one Arshed Ali to jail for embezzling Tk 100 crore. NSU trustee members misappropriated Tk 300 crore. So, it’s a bigger amount and bigger crime. I may file a petition with the trial court seeking their remand,” he said.
Appearing for the state, Attorney General AM Amin Uddin opposed the bail petition as the NSU trustee members embezzled university fund and committed organised crimes.
“The petitioners’ lawyers referred to a previous petition but that petition was filed over the purchase of 200 bighas of land at Joydebpur in Gazipur for NSU. The trustees were made accused in the case for committing corruption in buying land in Rupganj. So, the accused can’t take the advantage of the previous writ.”
At this stage, the HC questioned the purpose of buying hundreds of bighas of land in different places by the members of the NSU Board of Trustees.
BDST: 2357 HRS, MAY 18, 2022